Page images

hand, it is well known that women of from fifty to sixty years of age and even older have borne children, giving birth to twins, in some rare instances, even at that advanced age.

Unconscious Pregnancy.-Under certain circumstances it may become a question whether a woman can become pregnant while unconscious. There can be no doubt of the possibility of such an occurrence, as it is well known that women have borne children in consequence of having been ravished when in a state of unconsciousness induced by the use of narcotics or anæsthetics.

Pregnancy in the Dead.-It not unfrequently occurs that the medical examiner is required to determine whether a woman was pregnant at the time of her death, as, for example, in cases where the charge is that of seduction and murder. In considering the subject of putrefaction, it will be remembered that attention was called to the remarkable fact that the unimpregnated uterus will resist decomposition longer than any other organ in the body months after burial; therefore, it becomes possible to say whether a woman died pregnant or not. On the other hand, even after years of interment, if the woman died pregnant and the foetus had reached the period of ossification, traces of its bones will be found among those of its mother.


Fœticide-Development of Embryo-Formation of Placenta, of Moles -Changes Undergone by the Uterus during Pregnancy-Of the Means of Producing Fœticide-Abortion from Natural Causes.

THE unlawful expulsion of the foetus constitutes fœticide, or criminal abortion. By the term abortion or miscarriage is understood, medically, the expulsion of the fœtus before the seventh calendar month of gestation; that is, before it is viable or would survive. After this period the expulsion is called "premature labor." Legally, however, such a distinction is not made; the unlawful expulsion of the fœtus at any period of gestation being regarded as abortion. At one time the law also recognized a distinction between an abortion produced before and after quickening, the punishment being more severe in the latter than in the former instance. At the present time the criminality of the act is the same, whatever may be the period of gestation at which the abortion is committed.

Foeticide, although an extremely common crime, rarely becomes the subject of trial unless it involves the death of the mother, in which case it is regarded as murder. The proofs that a criminal abortion has been committed are derived from the condition of the fœtus or foetal remains, whether expelled from the uterus or still retained within it, and from the condition of the mother.

Development of the Human Embryo.—The human embryo, at one of the earliest periods of development yet obtained, that is, about from ten to fourteen days after conception, consists (Fig. 26) of a tube, the primitive neural canal, more or less open on top; from the under part of

1 Haeckel: Anthropogenie, Vierte Auflage, Erster Theil, Leipzig, 1891, S. 365.

which hangs a globular-like bag. The latter, through subsequent constriction, divides into an upper and lower portion

[merged small][merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small]

continuous with each other, which become respectively the primitive alimentary canal and the umbilical vesicle.

The embryo, not longer than the one-twelfth of an inch, and inclosed within the amniotic folds, does not lie naked within the uterus; but within the zona pellucida (Fig. 27) or the original membrane which inclosed the yelk, or the contents of the egg. The zona pellucida being covered, however, with little villous-like processes, is now known and henceforth as the chorion. By the 21st day of uterine life the embryo (Figs. 28, 29), having attained a length of about the

one-sixth of an inch, rudimentary eyes and ears, the mouth, three cerebral vesicles, bronchial arches and clefts, umbilical vesicle, allantois and amnion are all developed. At the end of the first month, the embryo, being one-half an inch

FIG. 29.

FIG. 30.


Human embryo magnified, three weeks old: a, eye; m, mid-brain; o, ear; k, visceral arches; c, heart (HAECKEL).

Human embryo, natural size, six weeks old (HAECKEL).

long and weighing perhaps about twenty grains, is still further developed and is provided with rudimentary limbs. By the end of the sixth week the embryo (Fig. 30) has grown larger, and the limbs are better developed, attaining at the end of the second month (Fig. 32) a length of one inch, and weighing about one-eighth of an ounce. The fingers and toes are also now indicated, and ossification has begun in the lower jaw, clavicle, ribs, and vertebral bodies. At the third month the embryo (Fig. 31) varies in length from 2 to 4 inches and weighs from 1 to 4 ounces; the sex can usually be distinguished by the external genitalia, and the placenta is beginning to be formed.

Formation of the Placenta.-It will be observed that the




1. Diagrammatic Section of Uterus, Embryo, and Placenta: a, a', allantois transformed into chorion; e', embryo; i, rudimentary intestine; mm, amnion: n, decidua vera; n', decidua serotina; o, umbilical vesicle; p, pedicle of umbilical vesicle; q, villi of the chorion forming foetal portion of placenta; g', villi of the chorion imbedded in decidua reflexa and in the process of disappearing; r, pedicle of allantois; v, lacunæ of decidua serotina forming maternal portion of placenta (Longet). 2. Portion of the Umbilical Cord and the Foetal Surface of the Human Placenta in the Normal State.

« PreviousContinue »